Thursday, March 19, 2015

Don't Drive to See the Tulips, Go by Bike!

The three-page spread in the "Weekend" section today is a great example of the "tragedy of the commons."

The tulips are coming early because of warm weather almost certainly related to climate change.

And so we are going to encourage people to burn fossil fuels to go see the beauty.

Which in turn will contribute to a greater likelihood that the early shift will not just become a new "normal," but will continue to shift earlier and earlier.

The tulips are a business, and they probably depend on tourist income to supplement farm income.  But the tourism business that is beneficial in the short-term contributes in a very small way to the larger and longer-term disruptions that threaten the business. (Like the Third Bridge, this is self-negating!)

There's a contradiction here, and no easy way out of it. This pattern of contradiction is repeated over and over in our economic and cultural arrangements. We don't have the incentives aligned correctly.

That's an important reason for a carbon tax. This is a market-based approach that will help bring the short-term and long-term incentives back together and into alignment.

8% of normal snowpack right now - NRCS/USDA

Note also the dependence on out-of-season irrigation for the tulips. You may recall our dismal snowpack, 8% of normal.

Anyway, if you want to see the tulips - like the wineries say, go by bike!

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